ALBANY — The waiting won’t be easy, but the Siena College men’s basketball team plans to use the days ahead of starting play in the MAAC tournament to its advantage.
“Emotions are definitely rising,” Siena sophomore Manny Camper said before Tuesday’s practice. “We’re looking forward to it, but this also gives us some time to rest so we can be at our best when game time comes around.”
After closing its regular season with a win Sunday at Niagara, Siena is the fifth seed for the MAAC tournament and doesn’t play until 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Times Union Center against No. 4 Rider in the quarterfinals. Siena won’t play on either of the first two days of the tournament that starts Thursday.
“Just control your emotions. It’s that time of year when you’re excited,” Siena redshirt senior Kadeem Smithen said of what’s important for the Saints in the coming days. “We’ve just got to focus on the task at hand, which is beating Rider.”
Siena defeated Rider 59-57 during the regular season. Since that victory, Siena has split its last six games.
A year ago, Siena lost to Quinnipiac in the first round of the MAAC tournament, a game that served as former head coach Jimmy Patsos’ last with the program. Siena last made a MAAC tournament championship game in 2017 when the Saints started their postseason run playing in the late Saturday quarterfinal of the tournament.
“I just remember that whole weekend was crazy,” said Siena senior Evan Fisher, one of the few current Saints who was on that team. “Everything is just kind of coming at you quick.”
WOMEN PLAY THURSDAY
The No. 7 Siena women earned a pair of decisive wins against No. 10 Iona during the regular season, but Saints head coach Ali Jaques doesn’t see those past results meaning a lot when the teams play 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Times Union Center in a MAAC tournament first-round game.
“Every time you play a team, it’s a new circumstance,” Jaques said. “We’re coming off of two tough losses and they beat Saint Peter’s. It’s a clean slate. It’s a new season.”
Siena finished the regular season at 12-17 overall. The Saints won three of their final 10 games in the regular season.
“I think mentally we can [bounce back]. I think physically it’s tough,” said Jaques, whose team has battled injuries throughout the season. “It’s been tough for us all year, but I’ve got a team full of really tough kids who are fighting and in the training room as much as they possibly can be.”
The winner of Siena vs. Iona will play No. 2 Rider Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.